Fear and politics block real US migration reform

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-10 21:45:03

Earlier in June, US President Barack Obama said his administration will stop deporting young "illegal" immigrants under 30 years old who entered the US before 16 years of age, have resided in the US for at least five years, pose no criminal or security threat and who are attending high school, or graduated, or served in the military and are now honorably discharged.

Under this policy, such young people can get a two-year deferral from removal, that can be renewed and allows them to apply for a work permit, but it does not give them permanent legal status or equal rights. If denied deferred status, there is no right to appeal.

What Obama did was a very important step, but specific rules about how to apply for the deferral have yet be published by the Department of Homeland Security.

But the rest of how this program came about is politics. The politics are locking out fundamental immigration reform. Unfortunately, comprehensive immigration reform has meant only proposals by all sides, both Democrats and Republicans, for more enforcement.

Last year, there was a memo issued by the Homeland Security Department that allowed for extending prosecutorial discretion to undocumented parents with young children but no criminal history.

In this way, the government could stay deportation for some people and also provide temporary lawful status that could be taken away anytime. The same happens with this program which was announced a couple of days ago. It is a temporary measure and could be taken away in the future.

I think obstacles in the way of comprehensive immigration reform are partly due to the political leadership.

I don't think any politicians want to deal with the immigration issue, but just to use it to get votes.

In fact, when you check and speak with people who are opponents of immigration reform and who definitely oppose this particular program, you will find the ideas they hold about this particular program will not solve anything.

But this measure will just hold off the growing movement for fundamental change that has been growing for many years due to the failure of elected leaders to create a reform.

The only reason the program was brought up this time was because of the presidential campaign.

 I don't think Obama wanted to take this step, but his campaign offices around the country were taken over by young people who wanted him to act now and create this temporary relief.

Some critics claimed that Obama added some form of unilateral amnesty in this program. Some argued that he has actually acted outside the democratic process and did not have the power to do this.

Yet Obama's opponents also use this immigration relief politically and they will keep pushing it as if Obama did something extreme and outside the normal political, legal and policy bounds.

The only hope I have is that the beneficiaries of this policy who have pushed this change in policy will not be satisfied and will push for more.

I believe most of the young people who are holding demonstrations, marches and protests about these issues will not stop fighting for more fundamental reforms.

I wish that immigration reform could be consistent with human rights standards when it comes to enforcement. Frankly, the whole immigration system has been dragged down and criminalized. It has become a very inhumane system. And because of this, many people in the US, especially those living in border cities, view both legal and "illegal" immigrants as criminals.

I feel the movement itself, particularly among young people, will push back on this and will also demand that our elected leaders enact fundamental reform and not just temporary relief.

This article was compiled by Global Times reporter Fu Qiang based on an interview with Stanley Mark, senior staff attorney of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. fuqiang@globaltimes.com.cn


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